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New and unfamiliar places can be filled with thrilling possibilities or be downright scary. They can even be a combination of both. You can walk in and embrace the chaos of confusion and roll with the new scene, or be debilitated by your lack of social knowledge of what happens in those particular spaces.
The first time I went to an art gallery, I felt so out of place. I didn’t know what constituted as “good art” and I didn’t know gallery etiquette: how loud I could speak, if I could speak at all, how long I should stand in front of an artwork, if selfies lowered the prestige of the establishment, or if anyone was staring at me because I’m a lower class young Samoan girl in a place I knew nothing about. But the art gallery is free, and a public space, and I had every right to be in there.
By the same token, you have the right to be here at university. This is your place. I had a tutorial once in which we did casual little poll of who felt comfortable coming to university and who didn’t. Unsurprisingly, all the brown students felt alienated and that they didn’t have a right to be here, and the palagi students felt comfortable (I understand this is not an extensive survey and has many holes, but just work with me here).
As unnatural as it might feel, you have the right to be here as much as every other student. Most of us are burrowing into decades of debt to be here and we should feel that this place is all of ours. Spaces like the Pasifika Haos (15 Mount St.), Wan Solwara (Level Two, Kelburn library), Te Pūtahi Atawhai (Level Two, Student Union building), Te Rōpū Āwhina (Room 148, Level One, Cotton building), are here to help you feel more at home, to encourage connection with students and staff, and add a sense of belonging in a place you might not feel at home in.
Come to our spaces, say hi, bring a friend, make a friend, have a laugh, and struggle through study with us. University is your place, and these little pockets of specially tailored space are here to make sure you know that.